Managing editor Marina Mayer recaps her experience at SNAXPO 2010, which was complete with armadillo racing, Brazilian dancing and a whole lot of snacks.




Yee Haw SNAXPO

When I told my aunt that I was flying to Ft. Worth, Texas, to attend SNAXPO 2010, she gave me two pieces of advice: wear pointed toe boots and be prepared to boot scoot.

Pointed toe boots, check, although not the most comfortable option for a tradeshow. But boot scoot? How is a girl from Chicago supposed to even know what that is?

According to several online boot scoot “lessons,” it has something to do with putting your feet together, twisting on the heels of your feet, then the balls of your feet, then stepping forward, then kicking and sliding left and right with your thumbs sticking out of your hips.

Thankfully for everyone who attended the annual snack show, which was hosted by Arlington, Va.-based Snack Food Association and took place March 3-5, boot scoot wasn’t on the itinerary.

However, the three-day event did offer up a lot of networking, renewing friendships and getting some sound industry advice of its own that can produce its own little song and dance.

For starters, I learned how to properly hold an armadillo and that you have to blow on their tails to make them run faster. This I learned at the opening dinner reception, which was held at Billy Bob’s of Texas. Located in the heart of the Ft. Worth Stockyards and known for its honky tonk, this restaurant/country Western dance club also is home to electronic bull rides, slot machines and yes, armadillo races.

My fellow SF&WB team members, which included publisher Jeff Heath and sales manager Barb Szatko, and I also learned some Brazilian dance moves at tna North America’s invitation-only Bondi Beach Party, which took place at its Coppell, Texas, facility. Complete with a Hawaiian-themed dinner, a hula-hoop contest and what seemed like the never-ending conga line, I scrapped the boot scoot dance for some good ole traditional shaking of the hips.

While that was all fun and games, the real lessons learned came from keynote speaker Carlos Gutierrez, former CEO and chairman of the board at Kellogg Co. and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Gutierrez spoke of trends versus fads and how facets such as healthy, convenience and traceability are here to stay as long as the product it pertains to tastes good.

“No matter what the trend is, you’re not going to sell it if it doesn’t taste good,” he says.

In addition, he predicts that oat bran is going to take over the food industry. That is, of course, if someone ever figures out how to make it taste good.

But for every trend, there is a countertrend. Perhaps the biggest trend has been the fastest growing segment of the food industry, namely those products that contain sugar. It’s not a fad. In fact, it’s been at the top of the charts for the past 33 years.

In a society where consumers read nutrition labels, talk too much about their healthy diets and opt for gluten-free, organic, non-fat snacks, how can products containing sugar still override the better-for-you segment of items?

“People want food that tastes good. They still want to indulge,” Gutierrez says. “So don’t pay attention to what consumers say, pay attention to what they do.”

That’s why shoppers are asking for healthier options while they’re still filling their carts with sweet-tasting, indulgent treats.

Although I returned to snowy-filled Chicago with a larger appreciation for the snack industry – and a newfound respect for armadillos – I also can’t help but relish in my experience at this year’s SNAXPO.

I may not have learned how to boot scoot, but walking the tradeshow in my toe-pointed boots certainly did wonders on both the heels and balls of my feet.

Marina Mayer, managing editor
mayerm@bnpmedia.com